Schools in county are targeted for improvement

With new accountability indicators and determinations, the state Education Department, in compliance with the Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA), announced 106 target school districts, 245 schools for Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) and 125 schools for Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI).

During a conference call this week, MaryEllen Elia, State Education commissioner, said an emphasis of the new system is being implemented to identify areas of improvement and not to chastise low-performing school districts.

“Our accountability system is not intended to name and shame schools, rather our system is designed to help schools improve teaching and learning,” Elia said.

The new ESSA indicators were developed over the course of the last two years after consulting stakeholders throughout the state. An ESSA think tank was even established that was comprised of district leaders, teachers, parents, community members and students.

“The ESSA plan is more than an accountability system. It includes strategies for supporting the professional growth of educators and ensuring all students including multilingual learning and English Language Learners, immigrant students, migratory youth, students with disabilities, homeless youth, and neglected and delinquent youth have access to a well rounded culturally responsive and sustaining education to support students academic and social and emotional development,” Elia said during the phone conference.

Jamestown Public Schools District and the Dunkirk City Schools District were identified as target districts with at least one school within the district designated as a TSI school for the 2018-19 school year.

Of the nine schools in Jamestown, Ring Elementary School, Washington Middle School and Jefferson Middle School were tagged with the TSI designation. All three of the schools were designated as focus schools under the previous determinations.

However, schools like Persell Middle School and Love Elementary School that were previously labeled as focus schools are now categorized as being in good standing.

Jessie Joy, JPS chief information officer, said Persell and Love’s move from being a focus district was in part because of the new designations and improvements made by the schools.

“It was a combination of the two,” Joy said.

In Dunkirk, Dunkirk Middle School is the only building designated as a TSI school and was previously identified as a Focus School. Like Jamestown, several schools previously labeled as focus schools are now determined to be in good standing under the new system including School 7 and Dunkirk Senior High School.

Cassadaga Valley Central School District, Silver Creek Central School District and Brocton Central School District were all identified as focus districts under the old determinations for the 2017-18 school year but are now identified as being in good standing for the 2018-19 school year.

Designations are determined by viewing the performances of student subgroups within a school. The evaluated subgroups include members of racial and ethnic groups, low-income students, students with disabilities and English language learners. Those subgroups are given a performance score from one to four. Indicators that are considered when compiling the scores include student achievement in English language arts, mathematics, science and social studies; student growth in language arts and math; 4-, 5- and 6-year graduation rates; student readiness for college, career, and participation in civic life; acquisition of English proficiency by English language learners; and chronic absenteeism. The chronic absenteeism, English proficiency and college, career and civic readiness indicators are new to the updated system.

Target districts are determined if the school district has at least one school in the district identified as a CSI or a TSI school. School districts can also be labeled as a target districts if they were labeled as focus districts in the 2017-18 school year or had a subgroup that met a TSI identification. Target districts are mandated to develop a District Comprehensive Improvement Plan (DCIP) to improve student learning measures by identifying and implementing specific initiatives.

The bottom five percent of schools in terms of performance based on the state indicators are labeled as CSI schools and subject to various state requirements like onsite assessments and data review by an outside team of professionals. Additionally, School Comprehensive Educations Plans (SCEP) must be drafted with community input and be submitted to SED for approval.

For a school to be labeled under TSI, at least one student subgroup has to receive a level one performance score. Schools in good standing have to observe two low-performing years before they can be identified as TSI schools. TSI schools will also develop SCEPs, but are not required to submit them to SED for approval.

Because JPS has been a focus district, it has participated in annual improvement plans in the past. TSI schools that fail to show improvements over an extended period of time can be designated as a CSI school with increased state intervention.

“With the work that we’ve been doing to improve instruction and provide support services, we believe we’ll achieve the necessary improvements,” Joy said.

Identified districts and schools are eligible to receive of Title I School Improvement funds to support intervention efforts. Currently, New York State receives $80 million in Title 1 funding.

“New York’s ESSA plan is designed to improve equity in student outcomes by identifying the schools and districts that need additional support,” Elia said. “With these new school accountability determinations, a community engagement process is started to develop and implement evidence-based strategies to increase student achievement in our neediest schools so all students in New York State have access to a high-quality education.”

At a board of education meeting on Jan. 22, JPS presentations will be given to board members regarding the district’s designations and improvements TSI schools are making. Joy said the new system is more comprehensive than the previous one and gives the district a larger outlook on student performance.